Nigel Grainge, the British music industry veteran who signed the likes of Sinead O’Connor, The Boomtown Rats, Thin Lizzy, Steve Miller Band, 10cc, The Waterboys and was recognized as one of the top A&R men of his generation, died Sunday (June 11) in Santa Monica, California following complications from a recent surgery. He was 70.

Music was in Grainge’s DNA. His dad Cecil owned a record store in North London and in the early 1950s and gave him a 78 RPM record every weekend from the age of three. And his younger brother Sir Lucian Grainge is chairman/CEO of Universal Music Group, and is widely considered one of the most powerful executives in the world. The pair remained close through the years.

The elder brother was a mover-and-shaker in the international biz long before the Grainge name became synonymous with the biggest music company on the planet. Like many who rise to the top, Grainge got his start in an entry-level position that offered him a wide-angle view on the business. In 1970, he joined Phonogram London (then known as Phillips Records and later as Mercury Records) as a clerk in the accounting department. His deep knowledge of music was spotted early on and he swiftly rose through the ranks, becoming label manager for U.S. repertoire in 1973 and eventually earning stripes as head of A&R. Grainge repaid the company’s faith in him by signing Thin Lizzy, 10cc, Steve Miller Band, Eddy Grant, and others.

In 1977, he stepped out to form Ensign Records (“N” for Nigel, “signs”), and built an enviable roster which included Boomtown Rats, Sinead O’Connor, the Waterboys  and World Party. The label also released a slew of influential reggae and jazz-funk recordings.